Vacation Highlights: 7 National Parks Over 6,000 Miles

Monument Valley

Mike and I took a long vacation his year, and it was fabulous. Last year we were in Utah, and we just didn’t get enough of the West, so this year we headed out there again…

We were gone 18 days, drove over 6,000 miles, passed through 16 states and visited 7 national parks in total. It was a whirlwind of an adventure…and although, it was a TON of driving which I think we might pass on for next vacation…it was a lot of fun.

Grand Canyon

Arches National Park

We purchased one of those annual passes for the National Parks, and we visited:

  • Badlands National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Grand Canyon
  • Bryce Canyon
  • Arches National Park
  • Black Canyon National Park.

Fountain View from our room at the Bellagio (26th floor) Las Vegas baby!

Paonia, Colorado

Hoover Dam

Attractions we got to see (not in order):

  • Hoover Dam
  • Las Vegas strip
  • Colorado Mountains (annd Mike’s Grandma on our way through)
  • Mount Rushmore
  • Grasslands of South Dakota
  • Titanic Exhibit (Luxor in Las Vegas)
  • Tournament of Kings (Las Vegas)

States we passed through:

Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana

This was the first thing we saw upon entering Yellowstone. Just a buffalo trotting down the opposite side of the road. Like, no big deal, guys. I’m just here, doing buffalo things…

Old Faithful

Falls in Yellowstone

Animals we saw (some we’ve never seen before):

Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Elk, Moose, Prairie Dog, Buffalo, and deer.

This trip made our relationship stronger, we learned how to be more aggressive drivers (you gotta be in some urban areas), and it reminded us that life is short and you must enjoy it where you can. Life can be stressful, and it really shouldn’t be. Don’t let work (especially work) weigh you down. All the money in the world is not worth your heath or your happiness.

Badlands National Park

Morning Star Pool in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Lake

Bryce Canyon

This is my favorite picture out of the whole vacation, guys. Lake Jackson in Grand Teton National Park.

I hope everyone is having a great summer and enjoying life’s little joys where you can.

Happy Writing and Vacationing!

Our Vacation Out West Part 2: The Desert

After driving through the Rocky Mountains, Mike and I watched the landscape turn dryer, the rocks and dirt became a burnt red and orange. Small bush-like trees grew across the desert. And if you looked towards the horizon, the land continued for miles and miles in every direction. Flat and sparse and rocky, shadowed by giant mesas, we were just accessories to an already finished masterpiece.

This was the Utah that first greeted us. We drove for miles with no one around, except for the sparse trailer or house dispersed across the barren landscape. We drove through a good portion of the Navajo reservation and much of the landscape was the same; houses dotted a flat landscape of orange, red and brown.

Whoever lives here must drive for an hour to reach the nearest grocery store, or a half an hour at best to reach the nearest gas station. Little huts which promised finely woven Navajo rugs and pottery and jewelry, started to pop up every couple of miles alongside the highway.

We felt awed by the difference of this landscape compared to what we were used to back home. Upstate New York is green, the mountains are gentle hills, breezes tease the trees and rainstorms nourish. Here in this desert landscape was a harshness and a palette of colors we had never encountered before.

As the we drove into higher elevations and then drove back down, we kept our eyes out for eagles, and looked for big-horned sheep. We saw a few horses, and the occasional grouping of cattle, which chewed on the brown-yellow grass.

During our journey, I’m thinking about Star Wars, about a lonely teenager longing for adventure his desert home doesn’t provide. I’m thinking about science fiction stories of life on Mars, or a desert planet much like this one.

I fell in love with the desert’s stark beauty in a harsh and unforgiving landscape. Of dirt, and hot wind and a sun that blazes so hot and bright, it makes the sand burn underfoot.

I’m already in awe and we haven’t even made it to Zion National Park yet…and as we soon discovered, it’s always beautiful in Zion.

Our Vacation Out West Part 1: The Rocky Mountains

I haven’t been MIA on purpose…this month has been crazy. Started a new job that has a lot more responsibility than I’m used to and just yesterday, Mike and I just got back from a beautiful, ten-day vacation.

This year, we camped and went to Zion National park and then, the Grand Canyon. Our trip started in New York and then we cut across country; through a small bit of Pennsylvania, then Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, and then down into Utah.

The first night, we stayed over in a hotel in Morris, Illinois. That first day of driving was stressful. Between tolls and getting stuck in traffic in Columbus,Ohio, and the insane traffic in Chicago; we were ready for bed.

The next day, it was endless cornfields in Iowa. How many times a day did I say: “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa!”

Too many times!

If there is a purgatory, I imagine it looks something like Iowa. Flat, and sunny and endless. Miles and miles of cornfields with puffy white clouds and blue skies, and a road that cuts through it that goes straight and never ends. It is beautiful, and timeless and repetitive.

That second night was another rough one. This is only because it was pride weekend in Denver, Colorado, which was a bit of bad luck on our part, as many of the hotels we tried to get rooms in were sold out. Finally, we found one and spent too much money in a Comfort Inn and Suites.

(Note the blurry squished bugs on the windshield, bahaha. We hit a ton of them!)

The view the next morning, however, more than made up for it. We woke up and headed down the highway, and I got my first view of the Rocky Mountains.

They quite frankly, took my breath away. And I know that’s cliché, but I’m totally going with it. I probably took about two-hundred pictures of these mountains alone.

I grew up in upstate, New York, but our mountains are hills in comparison. In the Colorado Rockies, there isn’t just one shade of green. The mountains are capped with snow and then there’s the smell of pine trees and a sky so blue, it could be a mountain lake.

Barreling down a mountain at seventy-five miles per hour surrounded by traffic is both exhilarating and terrifying; and Colorado is such a strange combination of tree-hugging hippies and republicans.

Note how you can see my reflection in the side mirror taking the picture, as I bravely put the window down to get at least one glare-less photo.

I fell in love completely and would go back in a heartbeat. But this was only just the beginning of our vacation!